Every October I find myself wondering what's next. I find myself wondering what outlandish new breast cancer awareness campaign will surface. I wonder what new product will emerge transformed into its new temporary, tacky, pink version.
Each year I am more baffled by the sheer amount of stuff being marketed and sold in the name of breast cancer awareness. If you can eat it, drink it, play with it, wear it, hammer with it, bake with it, travel in it, shoot with it (yeah, unbelievable, right?) or even put your trash in it; there's more than likely a pink version of whatever it is available and waiting for you to purchase during October and beyond.
Breast cancer and the pink ribbon have helped create an October marketing goldmine.
Just when you think you've seen everything, you see some new gizmo or product adorned in pink, and you realize no, there's more where that came from. The pink crap just keeps on coming.
Somehow breast cancer morphed into the shopping disease. Everyone knows breast cancer awareness is now big business with more and more corporations and companies eagerly hopping onto the pink bandwagon each year. October shopping is no longer only of the Halloween kind.
Do you approve of the fact that breast cancer is now the shopping disease? I don't.
It feels wrong that so many corporations and companies are profiting from a deadly disease, or in other words from other people's misery. It feels wrong that so many people who are buying all this pink stuff are often being misled as to how much (or if anything) is being spent on breast cancer research or for that matter, anything to do with breast cancer. It feels wrong that this now annual gigantic feel-good shopping extravaganza gets extended well before/past October. It feels wrong to see a deadly disease being all prettied up in pink and the complexities of it being over-simplified in the messaging.
And isn't all this shopping being done in the name of breast cancer awareness rather sexist in the first place. Women, breast cancer, shopping... why must these three go together?
Why has no other disease been so literally tied up with ribbons and shopping?
Why aren't we shopping "to support uterine, testicular, lung, or (insert any other kind) cancer awareness"?
Maybe the simple answer is because it's been so easy to zero in on breasts - I mean breast cancer.
It's been easy for companies big and small to slap on ribbons and sell stuff under the guise of breast cancer awareness. It's been easy to focus on breasts. It's been easy for the seriousness of this disease to be glossed over and wrapped up in pink. It's been easy because people are eager to jump onto the emotional band wagon here. After all, most of us know someone affected by breast cancer. Many of us have a grandmother, mother, spouse, daughter, sister, aunt, cousin, co-worker or friend affected by this disease. We all want to feel as if we're doing something - anything.
And so we sometimes do what's easiest. We buy pink stuff or stuff adorned with pink ribbons. Then we can pat ourselves on the back and say well done. We've supported the cause.
But what if there was a better way?
What if we didn't buy pink stuff without first reading the fine print about where the donated dollars are going (if anywhere)?
What if we expected no, demanded transparency from companies big and small, so we could actually determine what products are worthy to purchase (donation dollar-wise) and which ones are not?
What if instead of doing all this shopping for stuff we may or may not need, we donated directly to causes we care about (like research)?
I am not saying stop buying pink products or products with pink ribbons on them. I am saying don't buy something just because it's pink or has a pink ribbon on it. Big difference.
Becoming an informed shopper takes more time and certainly isn't as easy. But after all, easy isn't always better.
As the late Barbara Brenner once said,"If breast cancer could be cured by shopping, it would be cured by now."
Amen to that.
How do you feel about breast cancer being literally tied up with ribbons and shopping?
A version of this post was originally published at Nancy's Point.
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Nancy Stordahl is the author of Getting Past the Fear: A Guide to Help You Mentally Prepare for Chemotherapy